Gluten vs. The Foodie - Tales of Adventure and Intrigue unfold as a Gluttonous Gourmand goes Gluten-Free for Good.

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Resolutions and Pancakes.


Hello, reader.  Remember me?  I started a blog 2 ½ years ago, and then accidentally forgot to post on it for the last 2 of those 2 ½ years.  Oooooopsy.

I know, I know—50 lashes with a wet (gluten-free) noodle for me!  But seriously, why did I drop this?  The short answer: at times, I have been known to be a self-diagnosed perfectionistic maniac… but only sometimes!  If a project isn’t perfectly planned and executed to my often unreachable standards, I have been known to abandon it altogether.  If I make some delicious meal, but failed to give it the foresight I think it deserved, or failed to take the perfect picture of it, I deem it as not worthy to be shared in the blog-o-sphere.  This is bad!  This is no fun!  This is not going to happen in 2013!

So new slate, new year, new goal:  These blog posts will no longer be insurmountable tasks of epic magnitude on my to-do lists.  They will also not be shoved aside because I have more pressing things to do/work on.  Instead, they’re going to live somewhere in between.  They may be as infrequent as once every month or two, they may not be long, they may only consist of a snapshot of a freaking ridiculous skillet of Gluten-free mac and cheese for you to drool over.  But they’re going to exist.  This blog brings me so much joy, and I won’t let it be squandered by my silly over-achiever standards.  I plan to round-house kick my perfectionist expectations square in the solar plexus.

And speaking of solar plexuses (“solar plexi”?  hmmm… ), my abdominal region is happy right now. Very happy, indeed.  It’s been filled to the brim with delicious, fluffy gluten-free banana pancakes.

These pancakes make no sense.  My brain says they should be hard, dense, crumbly, dry and mealy. They should make me throw my head back and hands up in rage at the heavens, cursing my auto-immune system and its shortcomings—that’s what gluten-free pancakes NORMALLY insight.  BUT NO!  Dear reader, NO.  These pancakes.  THESE pancakes.  These PANCAKES.

You see I’m at a loss for words.  This is rare.  This is what these pancakes do to me.  All I can say is this: (1) please make them.  (2) please eat a lot of them.  (3) don’t thank me, thank my amazing sister, Laura, who this recipe is 100% credited to.  I am but a mere messenger, a courier, a herald.  Thanks to her, 2013 is going to be so freaking filled with so many freaking pancakes.  YES.

Gluten-Free Freaking Pancakes:

Ingredients:
Dry:
1 ½ cups GF flour blend (*I HIGHLY recommend ‘Cup 4 Cup’ brand. I have made pancakes with other flour blends, including my own, and they weren’t as good. Sometimes they have even resembled hockey pucks. I think this flour blend is the key. You can find it at Williams Sonoma or online/amazon)
2 ½ tsp baking powder
¾ tsp salt
1 Tbsp. sugar

Wet:
1 ½ cups buttermilk (or as I do, make your own buttermilk by mixing 1 ½ cups regular milk with 1 Tbsp. white vinegar and allow to sit for 5 minutes)
1 egg, beaten
3 Tbsp. butter, melted and cooled
½ tsp vanilla extract
1 ripe banana, mashed (optional)

Whisk dry ingredients in large bowl, then hollow out a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Add each wet ingredient (expect banana, if using) to the center of the well, stirring the dry into it a bit after each addition. Whisk briefly to get any major lumps out (but batter will still be slightly lumpy). Stir in mashed banana (if using). Allow batter to rest for 15 minutes.

Preheat a nonstick skillet/griddle/pan over medium heat (if you don’t have nonstick, then heat a regular pan/griddle and grease with cooking spray or butter/oil of choice. Keep in mind, though, that a nonstick pan/griddle with no grease will get you a better end-product). Pour ¼ cup of batter onto the heated griddle/pan for each pancake. Cook several minutes, until the bottom is golden brown and the top of the pancake appears dry and holes start to appear along the surface. Flip. Cook another minute or two/three, until the other side is golden brown.

Serve with butter, fresh bananas or berries, and use syrup sparingly (depending on how sweet your banana is, you may not need any syrup!). And obviously, don’t be lame. You’ve come this far. Use 100% pure maple syrup.

You’re welcome.


Gluten-Free Ginger Lemon Cream Sandwich Cookies


Ginger Lemon Cookies

Trader Joe’s, people.  TRA… Der….Joe’s.  How much do I love it?  Thiiiiiiiiiiiis much.  Not only do they have a plethora of Gluten-Free items from which to choose, but they carry my favorite cookie of all time:  Carr’s Ginger Lemon Cremes.  Yowza-dune, shut your face— these are delish.  If you can eat Gluten, please do me (and yourself) a favor, and go buy a box now.  Dunk them in warm tea.  Savor each crumb.  You may be diagnosed with Celiac Disease tomorrow, so carpe diem, Gluten-Guzzlers.

If you cannot eat Gluten, however (or you simply want to try the best cookie on the planet with homemade improvements), this post is your friend.

Ginger Lemon Cookies

After conceptualizing the idea for these and piecing together several recipes, I took a trip home to California for Christmas and made a whole batch of these delightful cookies with my family for the Holiday.  We made many different kinds of cookies.  Some with gluten.  Some without.  These, fortunate reader, were the best.  I repeat, THE BEST.  These cookies win the Blue Ribbon.  They get an A-plus.  They’re at the head of the class.  They have a 4.0 GPA.  They are a perfect 10 and also scored 1600 on their SAT’s.  I would cheat off these cookies while taking a test.  I would use them as bribery.  I would steal these cookies from a baby if he/she were looking the other way.  I’m quicker than a baby, and my arms are longer.  There’s nothing wrong with that. Stop judging me.

Ginger Lemon Cookies

So let’s just break it down, shall we?  Although my inspiration came from Carr’s crunchy cookies, this version is chewy.  The GOOD kind of chewy.  It’s a chewy/soft hybrid.  A dreamy cloud of sweet gingery-ness with puffy, lemony, soft-as-silk and light-as-air cream that overflows from the center of the sandwich.  They are better the second day.  By then, the buttery cream ever-so-slightly soaks into the cookies, marrying the flavors a little more and softening the cookie’s texture just a bit.  They are divine.  You will not miss the gluten.  In fact, as my family and friends discovered, you will not even realize it’s not there.

Score.

Gluten-Free Ginger Lemon Cream Sandwich Cookies

adapted from epicurious.com
(makes 1.5 dozen sandwich cookies)

you will need:

2 1/4 cups Gluten-Free flour blend (or all-purpose Gluten-Free flour)
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 cup butter (1 1/2 sticks), at room temperature
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup molasses
for lemon sugar:
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 teaspoons lemon zest
for lemon cream:
1 1/2 Tablespoons lemon zest
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup powdered sugar
2 teaspoons lemon extract

Ginger Lemon Cookies

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix the first 7 dry ingredients together with the room temperature butter.  Mix until mixture resembles brown sugar, then mix in the brown sugar.  Blend in the egg and molasses until thoroughly combined.

In a small bowl, mix granulated sugar and lemon zest until combined.  Roll cookie dough into tablespoon balls and then roll in lemon sugar.  Place on parchment lined cookie sheet, 2 inches apart.

Bake 10-12 minutes. Test your first batch to get the desired chewiness. Every minute longer will result in a crispier cookie.  Cool for 1-2 minutes on cookie sheet and then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

Ginger Lemon Cookies

While the cookies cool, make the lemon cream filling.  Using back of spoon, mash lemon peel and salt to a paste in medium bowl.  Add butter and beat, using an electric mixer, until fluffy.  Add powdered sugar in 2 batches, beating after each addition until blended.  Add lemon extract and beat until fully incorporated.  Taste for sweetness and lemon flavoring and add more sugar and/or lemon extract as needed.

Ginger Lemon Cookies

Once cookies are cooled completely, spread 1-2 teaspoons of lemon creme on flat side of cookie.  Cover with another cookie’s flat side and push together until filling squeezes to the cookie’s edge.  Continue until all sandwiches are made.

Can be prepared several days ahead, and are better on the second day.

Oh yes, I did… the Egg-in-a-hole-wich…


If your childhood was anything like mine, weekend mornings were most often accompanied by the cherished riddled breakfast of the egg-in-a-hole.  This deceptively simple weekend morning treat couldn’t be less complicated if it tried, and yet its unique elementariness never failed to invoke pure excitement (as well as ooh’s and ahh’s from the occasional house guest).  The basic gist is this:  you make a hole in the center of a slice of buttered bread, throw it in a hot pan, and crack and egg into its recently carved-out home.  Cook, flip, cook.  Salt, pepper, maybe some herbs if you’re feeling fancy.  Boom.  Breakfast.

So what was it about this that drove me insane?  And why was it ANY better, I beg of you, than any old, perfectly acceptable piece of buttered toast with a fried egg perched on top?  I do not know the answer to this riddle, dear reader.  It is not for me to know.  But heed my warning, a fried egg **inside** a piece of toast rather than **on top of** a piece of toast may cause massive breakfast consumption of said concoctions, and leave you with a lot of sad, stale cereal and old, lonely milk on your hands.

So why not go for broke, and let the egg-in-a-hole worm it’s way into your drab and dreary lunch as well?  (note:  I’m not intentionally suggesting you haphazardly jam a fried egg into everything your kitchen turns out, nor am I in financial cohoots with the egg farming industry… just to be clear).  I came across Honest Fare’s post on this very thing and absolutely HAD to make it on Gluten-Free bread to satisfy my curiosity and grumbling tummy… and thus, I present the Egg-in-a-hole-wich:  Freshly cut (Gluten-Free) ham, creamy swiss, whole grain mustard, fresh basil, and crusty (Gluten-Free) bread all sheltering a perfect little fried egg.  Eating it is like unwrapping a present.  A really tasty, gooey, savory, yummy, unbutton-your-jeans-and-nap-for-the-rest-of-the-afternoon present.  You know you want to, so dive in!

Egg-in-a-hole-wich
(adapted from Honest Fare)

Serves 1 hungry individual
You will need:

2 Tablespoons butter
2 large but thin slices Gluten-Free bread
whole grain mustard, for spread (do not skip the ‘whole grain’ part!!!  It’s worth it!!)
mayonnaise, for spread
1-2 slices (Gluten-Free) ham
2 slices swiss cheese
4-5 leaves fresh basil
1 egg

Assemble your sandwich:  spread each slice of bread with desired quantity of mustard and mayonnaise. Start by placing one slice of cheese on each slice of bread.  Top one slice of bread/cheese with the ham.  Arrange 4 basil leaves around the perimeter of the ham.  Top with other piece of bread/cheese.  Smoosh down sandwich as much as possible, then spread half the butter on one side of the sandwich.  Using a small cookie cutter (or knife, but be careful), cut a hole in the middle of the sandwich.


Heat a small skillet over medium heat and add the remaining 1 Tablespoon of butter.  When butter is melted and heated, place sandwich (DRY side down) in the pan and flatten down with the back-side of a spatula.  Crack egg inside hole in sandwich.  Cook for several minutes (depending on thickness of bread), until egg looks partially opaque and bread is golden brown.  Carefully flip with spatula.  Continue to cook for another minute to several minutes (depending on thickness of bread), until other side is golden brown and egg is set.  Transfer to a plate and top with chiffonade of fresh basil, salt and pepper.

** of course, ANY simple sandwich can be turned into an Egg-in-a-hole-wich.  I’m planning on trying a grilled mozzerella, rosemary and roasted red pepper Egg-in-a-hole-wich in the near future, and will report back.  Another idea is to caramelize onions until sweet and fragrant, and make a grilled grueyere and onion Egg-in-a-hole-wich.  I also imagine that your basic, All-American cheddar grilled cheese would make a STELLER Egg-wich as well.  Use your imagination, creative reader!  Cheap ingredients, big payoff, full belly.  Enjoy!

GFOS (Gluten Free Onion Soup!)


GFOS (pronounced “Geeh-Fahs”): Piping, cheesy, salty, sweet, toasty, warm and fuzzy.
The weather in New York: gross.
You on the couch, wrapped in a fuzzy blanket with a personal pot of piping hot happiness: Gluten-Free perfection.

Is there anyone with a pulse who dislikes French Onion Soup?  The answer is ‘no’ (and if you know someone who does, please get them some help immediately).  French Onion Soup is something I always seem to ‘forget’ about… as if the many memories of enjoying it with intense satisfaction fade into obscurity until the mere mention of its name pushes them ever so clairvoyantly to the front of my brain.  I remember the aroma, the warmth, the sweet steam that explodes forth after delving my spoon past the crackly, crunchy, gooey cheese crust – the juicy crouton, the luscious sweetened onion, the bubbly, salty broth…  I’m getting carried away.

So when my boyfriend said that creating said delectable indulgence was his ‘specialty’ back in college, I was thrilled.  And as the weather turned cooooold again, and he decided to make it for me (Gluten-Free of course!) and spotlight it on my blog, I was even more excited.

His recipe is classically reminiscent of all the flavors I love about the soup, but with a Gluten-Free crouton and Gluten-Free stock base… plus a lot of much appreciated love and many doses of wonderful-boyfriend-ness… and, Voila!  GFOS, people!

**please note: BF is much less of an OCD kitchen perfectionistic maniac than I, and rolls through his many delectable culinary creations with a Bobby-Flay-like haphazard swiftness.  Thus, if the pictures throughout are a little ‘motion blurred,’ it’s merely the reflection of a talented man at work!

GFOS (Gluten-Free Onion Soup)
adapted from AllRecipes.com


you will need:

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cups sliced onions
1 1/2 boxes Gluten-Free beef stock (I recommend Rachael Ray’s ‘Stock-in-a-Box,’ which is GF.  You can alternately use 4-10.5 oz. cans of Gluten-Free stock/broth)
2 tablespoons dry sherry (optional)
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 Gluten-Free Bagels, halved and lightly toasted (I recommend Udi’s Plain Bagels)
4 slices provolone cheese
2 slices swiss cheese
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
salt and pepper, to taste

Melt butter with olive oil in an 8 quart stock pot on medium heat. Add onions and continually stir until tender and translucent. Do not brown the onions.  Add beef broth, sherry and thyme. Season with salt and pepper, and simmer for 30 minutes.

Heat the oven broiler.  Ladle soup into oven safe serving bowls and place one half of lightly toasted Gluten-Free bagel on top of each (you may need to break into pieces to fit). Layer each slice of bread with 1 slice of provolone, 1/2 slice of swiss and 1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese. Place bowls on cookie sheet and broil in the preheated oven until cheese bubbles and browns slightly.

Deleeeerrrrrrrrcious!  Warmed, full, grateful, happy me.

giving thanks… (just a bit late)


Some would say I have a lot to be frustrated with this year.  There’s the cashier at Panera Bread who explodes, “oh my GAWWWWWD, that’s absolutely TEEEEEERRIBLE!!  Really though, that just sucks!” after I inform her that I cannot eat wheat in any form (be it the obvious bread, pasta, crackers, cereal, bagels– or the sneakily disguised forms of salad dressings, barbeque sauce, soy sauce, deli meat, some cheeses, soups, stocks, or anything processed).  Then there’s the occasional family member or friend who (bless their good-intentioned hearts) urgently exclaims, “Oh no!  I’d seriously kill myself!!” as he/she hears the news of my newfound dietary restraints.

I’m not gonna lie—my diagnosis was in no way welcomed at first.  I took the daily ease of life prior to Celiac for granted.  Something as simple as grabbing a quick snack at Starbucks or being able to eat at a friend’s barbeque are things of the past.  Eating on the go, something that used to represent ease and convenience, is now a nightmare of epic proportions, with few options and even fewer proprietors who are exposed to the issue.  Even something as basic as sharing a mayonnaise knife with my mother as we make sandwiches for lunch (mine on Gluten-Free bread, of course) can no longer be done.

Now that I’ve got the logistical details out of the way (and just as you’re thinking, “Woah, she seems pre-tty bitter”), allow me, if you will, to change my tune.  Because it hasn’t all been bad. In the last several months since diagnosis, I’ve learned more than I have in years, and on so many levels.  Even with my ‘foodie’ background, Celiac diagnosis has forced me to learn more about how to prepare food from scratch—how to take care, slow down, and nurture the energy my body needs.

I’ve learned how to use scary-sounding ingredients like xanthum gum.  I’ve learned how to NOT always follow every recipe ‘to the T’ (since I can’t anymore, or I wouldn’t eat anything!).  I’ve learned to adapt things, to be flexible, creative, and open.  To say this lesson has carried over from ‘recipe adapting’ to ‘life adapting’ only barely scratches the surface.  I’ve learned to explore the produce section of my market more thoroughly.  I’ve learned that Gluten-Free beer really isn’t all that bad!  I’ve learned to accept.  I’ve learned that it could be a whole lot worse.  I’ve learned to listen to what my body wants.  I’ve learned about myself: what my limits are, and what I can live without.

And most of all, I’ve learned about others.  I’ve learned that people are incredibly supportive.  I’ve learned that people care, and are interested.  I’ve learned that when you ask for the support of your cyber-community of Facebook friends (a genre of friendship that some argue is too distant to be categorized as such), they give it to you with open arms and hearts.  I’ve learned to feel and embrace the support of these friends, and how good that is.  I’ve learned that people will make you your very own Gluten-Free pizza at their pizza party, or your very own ‘crustless pie’ when they’re already making the real deal for the other guests, without you ever even asking. I’ve learned that people will always surprise you.

So this Thanksgiving, as I silently asked myself to take stock and be thankful, I was quickly overwhelmed by how much the seemingly depressing Celiac diagnosis has done just that: given me so  much to be grateful for.  It has been the window to a world of discovery and gratitude.  For years, I’ve been telling close friends and family of my inner fantasy of starting a food blog, but that I just didn’t have the time or drive to make it actually happen.  This pipe dream that sat in the back of my brain for years has, in a flash, become a reality, and I know it wouldn’t have come to fruition if I were still my Gluten-guzzling, pre-diagnosis self.  So this year, as I look back at what has changed—what I’ve lost, but what I’ve gained—I am reminded of a phrase my Italian grandmother used to say in her broken English, “Not all bad things come to hurt you.” Plainly simple and purely true.  They don’t all come to hurt us, after all.

And perhaps the most significant of all these disguised surprises was found on my very own Thanksgiving plate, itself.  As you may well know, omitting Gluten from Thanksgiving dinner is not as easy as merely avoiding the crescent rolls (ah, if only it were that simple!).  Chicken stock is the base for most of what’s on the Thanksgiving plate, from gravy, to the potatoes, to the stuffing, to the veggies—it’s pretty much in everything.  And what do most stocks contain?  That’s right:  Gluten.  On top of that, gravy is laden with flour as well as many of the other side dishes you wouldn’t expect, amounting to the sad reality that the Thanksgiving plate equals various combinations of Gluten, salt, and butter.  When rolling through the list of delicacies on the typical Thanksgiving menu (as they are traditionally prepared) a person with Celiac can probably enjoy just one thing—the cranberry sauce (let’s hear it for fruit!), and ONLY if it hasn’t touched anything else on the plate.  Gluten contamination should not be forgotten here.  When one stops to consider the sharing of Gluten-contaminated serving spoons in conjunction with the fact that even a crumb of Gluten is enough to send a Celiac into a lot of pain… yeah, Thanksgiving is your basic nightmare, or so I had heard.

Most people in the Celiac community warn that, on the big T-day, your relatives and friends simply won’t get it—that you should expect them to suggest that you “just don’t eat the crust on the pumpkin pie,” or “eat just the brie cheese off that baguette, it’s fine!” or even, “ah, come on—one or two crackers won’t really make a difference, right?”

Well, not my family.  I was amazed and touched when my Mom and sister informed me that this year, they were making everything Gluten-Free…  Yeah, you heard me right.  EVERYTHING.  Gravy, stuffing, you name it.  No Gluten allowed.  They said it would all be just as good without the Gluten, and then I wouldn’t have to worry about a thing!  Now let me just say for the record that this FLOORS me.  I mean, it’s beyond thoughtful and you are beyond lucky if your family just merely UNDERSTANDS and respects that you have your little saucepan of Gluten-Free gravy over in the corner that can’t be contaminated.  That, in and of itself, is something to be incredibly grateful for.  But this??  Going beyond simply understanding, and actually seeing to it that everything is safe for me, and that I don’t have to feel deprived or left out in any way?  Not to sound cliché, but what more could I ask for? ‘Lucky’ does not begin to cover how fortunate that makes me.

Now I recognize that this is not necessarily how Thanksgiving will be every year (nor do I want or expect it to be!).  It’s very important to me that my family/friends not feel obligated in any way to adjust their food for my needs.  I can get along just fine, and no one else is obligated to assist me in that—I’m cool!  But for this first Thanksgiving, it was such a warm and loving gesture for my family to make this decision.  To show me with more than words that they support, that they get how difficult it can be, and that they truly understand.  Not only my belly was full this Thanksgiving, but so was my heart.  Full of so much gratitude for everything— for the love and support I have in my life, even for the silly, stupid Celiac Disease.  The good cannot come without the bad, and that is a lesson to be truly thankful for.

Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Pumpkin Muffins


Hello, lovely readers!  I must apologize for my missing-in-action status for the past week plus… life has been crazy and hasn’t afforded me a huge amount of time to write any posts—Gluten-Free cooking experimentation has not ceased, however.  Thus, much posting shall commence soon, and to start it off, I thought I’d share a gem of a recipe that got gobbled up in no time flat by my friends and… well, yours truly, of course.

One of the most difficult hurdles to pass over since my Celiac diagnosis has been the fact that I have an abNORmal obsession with baked goods.  Since I was a child, the fluffy, soft, doughy devil in both sweet and savory forms has been my personal weakness.  While I don’t claim that his is uncommon, I must deem my obsession as particularly intense, especially when said doughy-ness is coupled with the flavor of sweet, buttery pumpkin.  C’mon…  Oh, man…  Seriously yum.

So every year, ’round about this time, the pumpkin bread starts finding it’s way into my shopping cart and/or my Starbucks order.   And this year, facing the holiday season with Gluten-laden pumpkin confections staring me down through bakery windows and display cases has been a true test of strength, willpower and endurance. Pumpkin-baiting is something I hadn’t remembered to expect of sly, resourceful Gluten… silly me.

So to awaken and revive my pumpkin Ch’i (…yes, I said pumpkin Ch’i– it exists, I’m telling you), I kicked the Gluten out of the most basic yet loveably mouthwatering recipe I could find: the pumpkin muffin.   This particular recipe is a serious winner with its healthy dose of spice for warmth and depth.  The best part is the cinnamon sugar that gets sprinkled on each muffin prior to baking.  This ever so slightly creates a crunchy, cracked sugar topping which is a step that cannot be omitted.  I can honestly say that these muffins, though free of all Gluten, are some of the best I’ve ever had…

And what holiday domesticity would be complete without the help of Martha? (yes, as in Stewart… duh).  Don’t you just love when muffins from fancy bakeries come bundled in rustic paper linings rather than the 1970s-style fluted cups?  Well, I do.  With the suggestion of Martha Stewart’s blog, I created my own liners for half of this muffin batch.  Check out the exact instructions here (although you can most likely infer how to do most of it).  This treatment provides an extra umph to these puffy little morsels of delish.  If you’re a perfectionist like (ahem) I am, then adding this extra touch will be both satisfying and necessary, and a great way to amp up the visual impact for guests.

Gluten-Free Pumpkin Muffins
adapted from Smitten Kitchen (all hail Deb)

I used raw sugar for these as it was all I had on hand, and I think it worked perfectly, so I’ve adapted the recipe as such.  If you only have white sugar, feel free to use.

you will need:
1 1/2 cups Gluten-Free flour blend
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon xanthum gum
1 cup canned pumpkin
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pumpkin-pie spice
2 teaspoon cinnamon – divided
pinch nutmeg
1 1/4 cups plus 1 tablespoon raw sugar (although regular white sugar will work just fine)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
confectioners sugar, for dusting

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Put liners in muffin cups (or line muffin cups with parchment paper squares).

In a medium bowl, sift together flour blend, baking powder, and xanthum gum.

In a large bowl, whisk together pumpkin, oil, eggs, pumpkin pie spice, nutmeg, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 1/4 cups sugar, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl until smooth.  Whisk in flour mixture until just combined.

Stir together 1 teaspoon cinnamon and remaining 1 tablespoon sugar in another bowl.

Divide batter among muffin cups (about three-fourths full), then sprinkle tops with cinnamon-sugar mixture.

Bake until puffed and golden brown and wooden pick or skewer inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes.

Cool in pan on a rack five minutes, then transfer muffins from pan to rack and cool to warm or room temperature.  Dust with sifting of confectioners sugar and devour.

(Just when you’re about to get your annual Candy overload): Gluten-Free, All Natural, Vegan Orangettes


It’s that time of year.  October 31st is fast approaching, and the aisles of your local supermarket and/or drug store are overflowing with Dextrose, Potassium Sorbate, Butylated hydroxyanisole, Albumin, Sorbitol, Maltodextrin and Alycerol Nonostearate!  Mmmm, mmmm, delish!

Let me back up a bit—I enjoy sweets as much as (…wait, probably more than…) the next person.  And I most certainly indulge in the mass produced, preservative-laden variety on occasion (provided they are on the short list of Gluten-Free options – can I get an amen for M&M’s, which I’ve recently learned are GF?  Holla!).  But seriously people, anything that you make from scratch, or that is produced in an all-natural fashion (or from organic ingredients) SO far exceeds the little rock-hard mystery pellets of preservatives with shelf-lives longer than most household pets.  So whenever possible, I opt for varieties with less additives and wind up with more flavor and decadence for my caloric investment.

So when I stumbled upon this charming recipe, I couldn’t wait to give it a go.  Orangettes are candied orange peels that are dipped in dark chocolate and then ravenously consumed by you and your friends.  You can technically make them out of more than just oranges (although I would assume this would rightfully require renaming of said homemade candy accordingly).  I plan on trying this with lemons and grapefruit as well.  In fact, my father (who possesses off-the-charts attention to detail and a Dali-Lama-like patience for meticulous, coordination-heavy tasks) absolutely loves making fresh orange and grapefruit salad on weekends.  Mind you, this does not mean hacking into the citrus fruit like most of us who are hungry and don’t care about ingesting some of the bitter, stringy, white pith.  No, this means scrupulously shaving off every bit of peel and pith with a paring knife, thoughtfully and carefully slicing out each section of orange/grapefruit, and then discarding its leftover bitter skeleton.  He’s really good at it (and the rest of us have happy bellies that are the glad recipients of his laborious efforts).  So I think a new tradition should be to craft some Orangettes (and “Grapefruit-ettes”) out of Dad’s leftover peels.  If you are someone who enjoys gummy orange candies, these are most certainly for you.  The intensity of orange flavor that bursts forth from these little slivers of sunshine is ridiculous.  I can’t recall where or when I’ve tasted such boldness and brightness in a little piece of fruit.  And then, when coated in rich, spiced, dark chocolate, the result is pure insanity.  They are addictive and dangerous, and should be made immediately.

Furthermore, it’s the ideal time of year to perfect your Orangette making skills because these make the ideal after-dinner Holiday dessert with coffee (as oranges are so often associated with Christmas).  These also would package beautifully as gifts (friends and family, you may be receiving some before 2011 is here).  Additionally, it is of utmost significance to note the necessity of saving the simple syrup in which you simmer the orange peels (which, if following the recipe below, you will certainly have extra of).  Said syrup becomes rich, thickened, and bursting with flavor.  Pour into coffee or tea all week, or drizzle over vanilla ice cream (along with the extra spiced chocolate sauce you saved as well, smart reader).  Your taste buds will be thanking you all week long.

Gluten-Free, Vegan Orangettes

You will need:
4 navel oranges
2 ½ cups sugar (or 1 ¾ cups agave nectar, which is better for you!)
2 ½ cups water (reduce to 2 ¼ cups if using agave nectar above)
12 ounces semi-sweet (or dark) chocolate (I used a brand that was both Vegan and Gluten-Free, which you should be able to find in many health food stores)
¾ teaspoon instant coffee
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (or up to ½ teaspoon, depending on your taste)
¼ teaspoon chili powder (or up to ½ teaspoon, depending on your taste)

I initially thought it could be a bit of a pain to peel the oranges.  This is absolutely not the case.  Use this easy method:  (1) gently roll the orange on a cutting board for 10 – 20 seconds, applying a bit of pressure.  This will loosen the flesh of the fruit from the peel.  (2) Cut the top and bottom off the orange.  (3) Make several vertical slits through the orange’s peel (just the peel; don’t cut through the flesh of the orange.  (4) Using your finger, gently push between the flesh and peel of one section until the peel begins to separate.  Continue working to the base of the fruit until the entire section of peel is removed.  It should come off fairly cleanly and easily.  Continue working around the orange until all the sections of peel are removed.

Next, cut each section of peel into 1/4-inch thick strips.  Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil and add the peels.  Blanch for 1 – 2 minutes.  Drain and repeat process 2 times (this removes any bitterness from the oranges).  Make sure you use fresh boiling water each time (for ease of preparation, I’d suggest having a kettle full of heated water so you don’t have to boil more after each blanch).  Set peels aside.

In a medium saucepan, bring the sugar (or agave) and water to a boil.  Add the orange peels.  Reduce heat so the mixture is at a simmer and cook for 1 hour, uncovered. Remove orange peels with a slotted spoon and place on a cooling rack to dry for 1 – 2 hours.

When you are ready to dip the orangettes:  Place the chocolate, coffee, cayenne pepper and chili powder in a metal bowl (or the top portion of a double boiler).  Place over a saucepan of gently boiling water and stir until chocolate melts completely.  Dip each orangette in chocoloate, covering it entirely if you wish, or dipping only ½ to ¾ of the way up (which I think looks oh-so pretty).  Place on parchment paper and allow to cool completely and chocolate to set.  Store in between sheets of parchment paper in an airtight container.

**Again, keep your extra orange infused simple syrup and spiced chocolate for coffee and ice cream!  You can thank me later…

Happy Halloween!

Stop and Smell the Gluten-Free Gnocchi… (with Brown Butter, Sautéed Radicchio and Butternut Squash)


(other titles for consideration: “Pillows of Prozac”… or “Autumn on Your Fork”)


I have many qualities I’m proud of.  None of these, unfortunately, is slowing down (not without much reminding, that is).  ‘Stopping and smelling the roses’ regrettably lands about 37th on my laundry list of daily tasks.  There are those 4 projects I need to start, those 8 drafts I need to finish, those 16 people I need to call back, and those 32 thoughts buzzing around aimlessly in my brain at all times.  There’s coffee with that friend, lunch with that colleague, that block of code I can’t figure out, that plane ticket I was going to buy, a call to my mom or dad or sisters, a trip to the market, a trip to the gym and… oh yeah, somewhere in between, a blog I just happened to start.

Maybe you’re thinking this sounds an awful lot like you, or maybe you’re thinking I sound completely insane.  Whatever the case may be, however, I know for sure that my slippery, darting days tend to hurl forward and out of my grasping fingers at such tremendous speeds that I often find myself in utter shock when focusing on the forgotten afternoon clock and realizing it’s 4.  “But it was just 11:30 ten minutes ago!” is typically my dismayed reaction.  Although it may seem surprising, I often wore this busyness like a badge of honor throughout college and the few years that followed.  I was busy!  I was important, needed, intelligent, paramount—I was here, I was there, I was living!

As my twenties progressed and (…ahem…) came to a close, I began to realize how insane this mentality was.  Yes, I’m incredibly grateful to have drive, enthusiasm and continuously evolving goals (and wouldn’t have it any other way)—to have ideas that spark my interest, passions to pursue, and the hunger to learn and grow always pushing me along.  But does this need to be everything to me?  These days, I feel it absolutely should not.  I try to remind myself as much as possible to slow down (and mind you, I’m a definite work in progress).  But I’m getting there—to find some silence and some stillness.  To be ‘here’ now, not ‘there’ later.  To take advantage of this moment as it is, in all it’s imperfection; or maybe, to discover some perfection that almost went unnoticed.

And in this spirit of slowing down, I took this past Sunday’s blogging experiment as an opportunity to do just that.  While I have often fought against time, I decided to embrace it—to stretch it out and explore it, and to release any expectation of how things would go.  I had the afternoon to myself—my laundry list was dismissed, and my darting mind was put down for a nap, as I handmade 70 little dumplings of yum.  This may sound like torture to some, but I absolutely loved every single one I prepared, mainly due to the reminder it gave me of my late, dear, Italian grandmother, who used to do the same.  She referred to gnocchi as Gavadel, which I assume (after some research didn’t turn up much) was her small Italian hometown’s rendition of and/or alias for the famously decadent potato dumpling.  Gavadel were always hand-prepared by Grandma upon special request, normally for a birthday or holiday, and always with much pride, joy, and killer marinara sauce.  These would never be served on any regular Sunday, oh noooo.  These were only reserved for special times of celebration.  Not wanting to mess with tradition then, I had my own private celebration… with myself, Grandma Josie, and the gorgeous early-Fall afternoon sunlight as I affectionately created something out of nothing: from cheese and flour to perfectly delicate indulgences, this Sunday was truly something to celebrate after all.

Patient reader, please meet Brown Butter Gluten-Free Gnocchi with Sautéed Radicchio and Butternut Squash…

Speaking of grandparents, my boyfriend’s grandfather (an endearing character whose adorableness could never be adequately measured or quantified) sent me, via the bf, 2 gorgeous butternut squash from his upstate garden.  This sweet man, though worn with age, tends to a full garden every season—a task that I consider a huge reminder to myself to stop and slow down—a task of nurturing, patience and care.  And thus, Grandpa Garner’s butternut squash was the perfect addition to my Grandma Josie’s love-labored pasta dumplings.

As Fall gradually overtakes Summer, I’m craving food that warms me from the inside more and more these days.  The buttery, savory nuttiness of this sauce combined with the sweet warmth of the squash, offset by the slightly bitter radicchio, and all tossed together with these feather-light pillows of Prozac (as they no doubt raise Serotonin considerably), makes for a perfect bite of Autumn on your fork.

While Grandma’s Gavadel, adored by yours truly, were made from potatoes, I have to say I’m a big fan of the ricotta gnocchi that I’ve been served in restaurants of late (prior to Celiac, of course).  This lighter version replaces the usual starchy potatoes with its title ingredient, and the result is pure perfection.  These gnocchi are so incredibly tender, I find myself at a loss for adequate adjectives to fully drive home the point.  I have tasted similar only in my favorite NYC Trattoria, Mario Batali’s unparalleled Lupa.  I never imagined I could ever create something similar in my own kitchen, much less without the gluten.  But thanks to the internet, rice flour, and the amazing Nicky of Delicious Days, I can!  Celebratory Gavadel is staying on the menu for a long time to come…

Brown Butter Gluten-Free Gnocchi with Sautéed Radicchio and Butternut Squash
adapted from Delicious Days and Epicurous.com

Never fear, busy reader who wants-to-slow-down-but-just-can’t-devote-all-day-to-dumpling-making.  Although this dish was my way of slowing down, this gnocchi takes a record 30 minutes to prepare.  No joke.  I took longer this past Sunday as I considered various ideas, prepared trial runs, tasted, tested, etc. But seriously, gnocchi from scratch can now be moved into the category of a quick meal.  Hallelujah…

*Note: If you don’t have a gluten problem and you’d like to make this with regular flour, you can substitute the rice flour, garbanzo bean flour, tapioca flour, and potato starch below with 5-7 Tablespoons regular all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting.  I have not tried/tested this (as my tummy would be pissed), but I would assume the conversion should produce a great result.

Serves 4 (plus you will probably have some leftover gnocchi)
You will need:
For the gnocchi:
1 cup + 2 Tablespoons Part-Skim Ricotta Cheese, excess liquid discarded (*eek!  Random sidebar: Please note this conversion may be wrong.   I will check and re-post within a few days tops.  Might be less than the 1 cup of ricotta- please check back before you make this! :) )
1 egg yolk
¼ – ½ teaspoon salt
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan Cheese
2 Tablespoons white rice flour
1 Tablespoon garbanzo bean flour
1 Tablespoon tapioca flour
1 Tablespoon potato starch, plus up to 2 Tablespoons more
all-purpose Gluten-Free Flour, for dusting the board

For the rest:
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 ¾ cups peeled, cubed butternut squash (¼ – ½ inch dice)
1 cup radicchio, thinly sliced
6 – 8 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1 Tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
1 Tablespoon fresh sage, chopped
1/3 cup pine nuts
freshly grated Parmesan Cheese, for garnish
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

To begin, place pine nuts in a dry skillet over medium heat and toast, stirring frequently, until golden and fragrant, about 4 minutes.  Set aside.

Next, heat 2 Tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the cubed butternut squash and a small dash of salt and sauté until tender and golden, about 5-7 minutes, depending on the size of your dice.  Add the sliced radicchio and another small dash of salt and several grinds of black pepper.  Sauté, stirring, until radicchio is slightly wilted, about another 2-3 minutes.  Transfer to a plate and cover with a loose foil tent.  Reserve pan for later use.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Once boiling, reduce heat to low and cover so that the water stays warm and ready to boil while you make the gnocchi.

To make the gnocchi dough, combine Ricotta, egg yolk, salt, and Parmesan in a bowl and mix well.  In a separate bowl, combine all flours except the all-purpose (white rice flour through potato starch) and combine thoroughly.  Add flour mixture to Ricotta mixture and mix very briefly, until just blended.  Dough will be very sticky, and that is what you want.  The more flour you add, the more dense the gnocchi will become.  The goal is to use as little flour as possible.  If you must add more flour, add some or all of the additional 2 Tablespoons of potato starch and mix briefly (*Note, if using regular all-purpose flour to make the non Gluten-Free version, add 5 Tablespoons flour initially, then add up to 2 Tablespoons more if necessary).  Do not overmix.

Generously flour a board or your countertop.  Working quickly, drop a giant spoonful of gnocchi dough onto the floured board.  Gently roll the dough back and forth with minimal pressure as it gets covered in flour and forms a cylindrical shape.  Continue rolling it gently until it is about the thickness of your finger.  Dip a sharp knife in flour and cut the rope of dough into 1-inch segments (you may need to continue to dip the knife in flour to prevent the knife from sticking to the dough).  *At this point, if making traditional potato gnocchi, many would make a small indentation with a fork by gently rolling its tines over each dumpling.  I prefer to skip this step, however, because the delicateness of this ricotta dough will not withstand much prodding, and the goal is to keep the dumplings as puffed and light as possible.* I use the knife blade as a ‘spatula’ to transfer the gnocchi to a cookie sheet that has been lined with parchment paper and then dusted with flour (you can use your hands, but beware that these little dumplings are extremely delicate!).  Continue working quickly on a new batch, transferring to the cookie sheet after each round, until all the dough has been used.

Raise the heat under your pot of water to bring it back to a boil.  Add a large pinch of salt and reduce heat slightly so that the water is at a very gentle boil.  Add the gnocchi (15-18 per person) and stir once so they don’t stick to the bottom of the pot (Note: if making the full 4 servings, you may need to cook them in two batches so you don’t overcrowd the pot).  The gnocchi will rise to the top after 3-4 minutes, depending on size, which means they should be done.  Test one to make sure it’s to your liking. Take them out with a skimmer and transfer to a plate.

If you feel up to multitasking while the gnocchi are cooking (but without diverting your attention too much as to not overcook them!), begin the sauce.  Otherwise, start the sauce as soon as the gnocchi are finished and transferred to a plate, working very quickly (it’s important to not let the gnocchi sit too long).  For the sauce: Heat the reserved skillet (which was used to cook the squash and radicchio) and add butter, allowing it to completely melt.  Once melted, continue to cook butter until it is golden brown, about 2 minutes total, adding fresh thyme and sage after 1 minute. Add the squash, radicchio, and cooked gnocchi to the pan and gently toss with butter and herbs, making sure squash and radicchio are warmed through.  Taste for salt and pepper and add accordingly (although it may not need any, since the gnocchi are very flavorful on their own).  Lastly, add the toasted pine nuts and toss.  Divide among serving bowls, top with freshly grated Parmesan, and serve immediately.

*Note: Although the gnocchi are best when cooked and served immediately (and I recommend you do so), you can make the dumplings and freeze them for one to several days prior to boiling.  After you transfer them to the lined and floured cookie sheet, place cookie sheet(s) in freezer for 2-3 hours.  Once frozen solid, transfer gnocchi to a freezer bag and store.  When ready to prepare, boil in same manner as above, although expect the gnocchi to take a bit longer to cook.

Baked Eggs, Huevos Rancheros Style


As a Southern California native, Huevos Rancheros was often a breakfast option at my house on weekends.  Its bold spicy flavors coupled with its heartiness and energy pumping protein make for a great way to start your day.  And guess what?  It’s naturally Gluten-Free!  Upon this realization, my Mexican-food-loving heart skipped a beat in excitement.

The obstacle, however, is making this recipe for a crowd.  Since each portion needs to be made to order individually, it puts a damper on a Huevos Rancheros brunch with friends—until I stumbled across a recipe for baked eggs in tomato sauce on Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food Blog.  After swapping out a few items in my brain, trading in regular tomato sauce for Enchilada Sauce, and adding some elements, I couldn’t wait to get to the market and test this out.  It’s simple, quick, delicious, easy, hearty, reheats wonderfully, and can be made entirely from scratch.

And speaking of ‘from scratch,’ I had never (up until this weekend) made enchilada sauce entirely on my own.  Normally resorting to building upon what’s already in a can by adding additional fresh flavors and vegetables, I had not even thought twice about creating it entirely from scratch.  With deviously disguised Gluten lurking around every pre-packaged corner, however, I decided to call upon my trusty and well-informed side-kick, Google, to search out my safety boundaries on this one.  Googs quickly compiled a source list of sauce manufacturers who were not entrapped in Gluten’s tyrannical regime and I suited up, jumped in my Foodie-Roadster and b-lined it for the nearest market.  To my surprise and horror, my local Key Foods (otherwise known as the sad, underachieving and less attractive step-sister to the shiny, radiantly breathtaking Whole Foods that’s 15 minutes farther on the subway… er… in my Foodie-Roadster….), did not have any of the brand enchilada sauces on Googs’ list!  In fact, they did not carry ANY enchilada sauce to speak of… at all!  Key Foods, c’mon.  Are you serious?

Thus, superhero improvising kicked in.  I threw some crushed tomatoes, cilantro, chili powder and cumin into my cart.  Red wine vinegar?  (*gadget arm swiftly flips bottle around as eye scan activates over nutritional information text…. Radar detects phrase ‘contains no gluten’… check!*)  Chicken Stock (organic, Gluten-Free) was tossed in the cart along with a head of garlic, and within a flash I was back at my apartment.

What I learned?  Improvised Enchilada Sauce is pretty darn tasty!  100% Authentic?  Probably not.  Perfect for a quick and easy way to amp up your usual Enchiladas?  Yes!

One thing I would definitely change when making this dish next time, however, is to skip the ‘pre-packaged’ shredded cheddar cheese, and actually grate my own.  My Foodie conscience hung her head in shame as I purchased the over-produced, filler-laden plastic bag of cheese, but I was in a hurry!  The proof is in the pudding, however– or the pictures, at least.  You can see from my photos that the pre-packaged shredded cheese melts oh-so-awkwardly.  I salvaged a few acceptable photos, but just know that the taste was still great!  Next time, I’ll give my biceps a workout and simultaneously end up with a more stunning product.  And now, without further ado, I present this deliciously easy, hearty, gooey, cheesy, spicy, savory, had-to-just-run-to-the-fridge-for-a-bite-of-leftover Baked Eggs, Huevos Rancheros Style.

Baked Eggs, Huevos Rancheros Style
adapted from Martha Stewart

Serves 4
You will need:

3 cups (+ additional for serving) Easy Enchilada Sauce (see recipe below)
6 corn tortillas, cut into 1/2-inch strips
¾ cup canned black beans, drained and rinsed
5 large eggs
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

for topping:
1 cup frozen corn kernels, thawed (or fresh, if in season)
1 roma tomato, diced
½ medium yellow onion, diced
the juice of 1 ½ limes
¼ cup + 3 Tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
salt and pepper, to taste
sour cream, for garnish

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Lightly coat an 8”x8” baking dish with cooking spray.  Spread 1 cup Easy Enchilada Sauce (recipe below) in the bottom of the dish.  Place tortilla strips in an even layer over sauce.  Spread 1 cup sauce over tortillas.  Layer beans over sauce.  Add ½ cup cheese in layer.  Add remaining sauce in layer.  Top with ¼ cup cheese.  Make 5 small ‘wells’ with your finger and break one egg into each ‘well.’ Top with remaining ¼ cup cheese.  Bake until sauce is bubbling and egg whites are set, about 30 minutes.

In the meantime, combine the corn, tomato, onion,  lime juice, and 1/4 cup of the cilantro in a bowl.  Taste for salt and pepper and add accordingly.  Set aside.

Remove casserole from oven and allow to cool slightly before cutting into squares and serving.  Top each serving with additional Enchilada Sauce, corn salsa, fresh cilantro, and a dollop of sour cream.

Easy Enchilada Sauce

You will need:
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tablespoons Multi Purpose Gluten-Free Flour (can substitute with regular flour)
3 Tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons oregano
2 teaspoons cumin
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 cups chicken stock (Gluten-Free)
2 15-oz cans crushed tomatoes in juice
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon agave nectar
¼ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
additional salt and pepper, to taste

Heat 1 Tablespoon olive oil in a pan over medium-high heat.  Add chopped onion and sauté until translucent, about 6 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.  Add garlic and sauté an additional 45 seconds, being careful not to burn the garlic.  Turn off heat and set aside.

In a saucepan, heat remaining 2 Tablespoons olive oil over medium heat.  Add flour and cook, whisking, for 1 mintue.  Add chili powder, oregano, cumin and cayenne and continue to whisk and cook for another 30 seconds.  Add about ¼ cup of the chicken stock, whisking constantly, breaking up any lumps of flour/spices as a sauce is formed.  Continue gradually adding the stock while whisking until all the stock is incorporated.  Stir in crushed tomatoes, salt, vinegar, agave nectar, and sautéed onions and garlic. Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and simmer for 15-25 minutes.  Stir in cilantro at the end.  Taste for additional salt and pepper and add accordingly.  Use in any enchilada recipe, or serve atop grilled chicken or steak.

Makin’ Whoopie (…Pies)


For September’s Adopt a Gluten Free Blogger

I suppose I’m beginning to notice a particular trend in my intrigue for baked goods with endearingly off-beat and obviously comical names (note last week’s Blueberry Boy Bait).  A part of me feels duly embarrassed by this newfound country-bumpkin-like adoration of such (for lack of a more accurate descriptive) “cuteness.”  I mean, I’m supposed to be a Foodie, for crying out loud.  I’m required to turn my nose up at such wholesome and simple pleasures, only seeking out the crème de la crème, the overly complicated, and notably refined, right?  No.  Wrong.  I can’t help it.  This citified food enthusiast wants to shed her shell of haughty cynicism, kick off her pointy-toed heels, and dust her Seven Jeans in pastry flour.  I’m getting in touch with my inner June Cleaver, and she’s not afraid to laugh at the cliché jokes.  She wants to wear aprons, radiate estrogen, and bake pies.  Deal with it.

And what better way to find my own personal Mrs. Cleaver than by route of the Amish?  Yes… that’s right— I said Amish.

I present to you, sweet-toothed reader, the Whoopie Pie.

Many of you may have never heard the term, or if you have, you may not know the name’s specific etymology.  Never fear, my Foodie-dork alter ego shall extrapolate in full detail for your enjoyment.  After a brief Whoopie Pie research session, I have discovered that, although their specific origin is up for debate, the majority of the evidence suggests that these little pillows of yum have their roots with the Amish of Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  Said to be originally made from leftover cake batter, these ‘pies’ are not really pies at all.  Rather, the lucky baker creates a sweet, fluffy, creamy filling, and sandwiches it between two silky, feathery (typically chocolate) mini-cakes.  At some point in their evolution, they were appropriately referred to as ‘Gobs,’ ‘Hucklebucks’ and, my personal favorite, B.F.O.’s (Big Fat Oreos).  Are you hungry yet? Eventually, the name ‘Whoopie Pie’ stuck, credited to the fact that “Whoooooopie!” was apparently what an Amish Farmer would shout when he discovered his wife had tucked one in his lunchbox (I told you to get ready for wholesome fun).

It’s particularly astonishing to note the depth of commitment which resides in many New England Whoopie-Pie-enthusiasts.  Each year, there is actually a Whoopie Pie Festival.  That’s right.  A festival.  Everything from an amateur Whoopie Pie eating contest, to Whoopie Pie Checkers, to the baking and cutting of the largest Whoopie Pie ever are on the roster of activities at this event.

As Amish cooking/baking is rooted in the notion of sticking strictly to tradition, and not being swayed by trends and timely changes, I’m not entirely sure what the original creators of the Whoopie Pie would have to say about a Gluten-Free adaptation of it.  Nevertheless, Nancy of The Senstivie Pantry (a beautiful and charming blog with delicious allergy-friendly recipes) recently posted her version of the Whoopie Pie, complete with all the creamy, fluffy, chocolaty goodness and none of the Gluten or Dairy. Ummmmm…. Yes please!  And this month, I just so happen to have signed up for Adopt a Gluten-Free Blogger, a wonderful event that allows bloggers in the Gluten-Free community to meet one another and share ideas and recipes.  I ‘adopted’ Nancy, and almost immediately decided on baking these delicately delicious devils.

I had a flour-dusted blast creating these in my kitchen this Saturday morning as I blared some Sinatra and cozied up to my mixer.  With Nancy’s advice, I dunked my spoon in the cake batter before baking it (as it’s egg-free, the idea of whether or not it is ‘safer’ is up for debate—‘safer’ on one hand, yes, because you can’t get sick from raw eggs…  ‘Dangerous,’ however, because once you start, it’s highly probable that nary a Whoopie will make its way to your oven).  I quickly called my roommate into the kitchen, had her do the same, and we simultaneously rolled our eyes with glee as our palettes danced for joy.  This only foreshadowed the delicate richness that would come out of the oven, and once stuffed with sweet, creamy, marshmallow-y heaven, these little pie clouds had to be removed from my apartment for fear of potentially hazardous wasteline expansion.  I brought them out to a benefit I was attending, and they were quickly gobbled up with many accolades of praise, thanks and ‘Whoopie!’

Baking experiment #3:  Success. But not because of me.  Many thanks to Adopt a Gluten-Free Blogger (and this month’s host, Sea, of Book of Yum, Nancy of The Sensitive Pantry and her DELICOUS, light-as-a-feather Maple Marshmallow Creme Filled Whoopie Pies, and last but certainly not least, the Pennsylvania Amish, who really know how to get their Whoopie on.